Botswana, in the center of the southern portion of Africa, is a land with a rich diversity of both flora and fauna. The chameleon represents an amazing example of the local fauna (or animal life). And the strangler fig represents such an example of the local flora (or plant life).
Known locally as “Mogo-tshetlo”, the technical name for this plant is Ficus Sur. This majestic giant is a large, fast-growing, evergreen tree, reaching up to 35 meters (or c. 100 feet) high, with large, oval, green leaves borne on a massive, spreading crown. It is common alongside rivers and waterways throughout the eastern and northern regions of southern Africa.
Each plant produces copious amounts of figs. These, in turn, provide food, shade, and shelter for all sorts of local species, large and small, including men and women. In the latter case, the figs are even used for certain medicinal purposes.
But this marvelous plant also has a darker side. Its seeds are small and often swallowed together with the fruit by various birds and mammals. These seeds are then deposited in the feces of these animals, normally some distance away from the parent tree. This, we are told, effectively distributes the species further afield.
Thereupon, the seed germinates in the leaf litter accumulated in another tree, often in the axis between two branches. The fig sapling develops roots that grow down the trunk of the host tree until they reach the ground. Once thedr roots enter the ground, the fig tree begins to grow aggressively; and it soon strangles the host tree, eventually causing its demise and occupying its place in the forest.
When the process has run its ultimate course, the host tree has been consumed and replaced, often leaving only a hollow space inside the huge root system of the strangler fig. Where a once proud tree of another species had stood, there is now a void.
Ouch! What can we learn from this gruesome, if efficient process of destruction within the natural world? Just this: a big lesson about the dangers of allowing deceptive and destructive things to take up residence in our midst!
In his eponymous New Testament Epistle (1:12-15), the apostle James describes just such a process:
12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
What James describes briefly is seen in much fuller detail in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The third chapter of the book of Genesis tells us how the first humans fell prey to the temptation of the Devil and then violated God’s commands by taking the fruit of a particular forbidden tree into their mouths.
Thereupon, they contaminated themselves inside and out with sin. And in so doing, they brought death upon themselves and upon each and every one of us as their descendants as well.
By God’s grace, the four New Testament gospels record how Jesus Christ, as God’s Son, vicariously died for us; and in the process, made it possible for each of us to be restored to a proper relationship to Almighty God through Him.
But that does not mean that we are not still susceptible to the wiles of the Evil One. In the sixth chapter of his New testament Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul assures us that we are (6:11). The Devil loves to deceive us and entrap us in little besetting sins. If we are not wary of his deceit, we can become ensnared and entangled in the stranglehold of sin, losing all sense of joy in Christ and productivity for Him as we do.
I leave you with the admonishment of the New Testament Book of Hebrews (12:1-3) the context of which is each individual Christian’s ongoing “struggle with sin” (as so stated in 12:4):
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
SOURCE: See http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantefg/ficussur.htm.
SCRIPTURE SOURCES: http://biblehub.com/niv/james/1.htm; and also